At PrimeTime last fall in New Orleans, the Nationwide Connected Home division rolled in with a completely new connected home experience, featuring a 360-square-foot tiny smart home. The tiny home was a great example of what’s possible in the world of connected home technology, especially in the form of GE’s Kitchen Hub. But the experience also exposes us to some of the bitter truths around the category.
Let’s start with the opportunity.
Connected home is revved up for an Independent pass on the outside for the lead (sorry for the corny racing tie in, but this is Daytona 500 week, after all). According to Google projections, the industry will reach $490 billion this year. Further, more than 42% of first-time Nest buyers are likely to return to buy another connected product within the first month of purchase.
And it only gets better. Google also found that 52% of Americans are too scared to install their connected home products on their own. As the category has evolved, the DIY-minded national chains have left more than half of Americans unsettled and underserved. And that small window is just big enough for Independents to catch the draft, swoop by and take the lead.
But as we spoke to the 400+ Nationwide Members who walked through the tiny home, it was clear that Independent service retailers have also had their struggles with the category.
Many of the challenges start with margin and profit. The lower margins set by the connected home category not only cause a moment of pause, but so, too, does the time to deliver, install and set up those products. As we heard over and over again, it is hard to get excited about selling a complete connected home package when the setup and support of those devices eats at or takes all of the install time. It was evident from our conversations that we need to solve the set-up and support equation on the back end to enable confident selling on the consumer-facing side.
Breaking this down seems simple — at first. Just partner with each manufacturer to train your installers on their products, thus speeding up the set-up process. Then, work with those same manufacturers to set up best-in- class tech support for issues that pop up after install. But when you dig into why these problems are happening in the first place, it becomes obvious that this will not be an easy fix.
Delivery, installation and set-up are three distinctly different functions, and the entire home has a hand in creating connectivity and communications challenges for the customer. Nationwide will need to create an easy solution to speed up the device set-up process for installers, while setting up a complete whole-home tech support solution that will be competent enough to solve any question, from the router to the refrigerator.
The great news in all of this? It’s all possible, and it’s a challenge that’s front and center for the Nationwide Connected Home division.
When you come visit the tiny connected home at PrimeTime in Houston, you will be introduced to a team that’s ready to help solve the setup and support challenges. As a retailer, you should be confident in your ability to present the amazing benefits of the exploding connected home market without the worry of getting slowed down by back-end support speed bumps — or the wily number 48 car blocking your pass around the turn. So, make a pit stop in Houston and see how Nationwide can help you grab the checkered flag in the race to connected home success.
Derek Mattila is the vice president of connected home and new business development for Nationwide Marketing Group